Ali Abdel-Aziz, the man making big waves for World Series of Fighting

image courtesy of Ali Abdel-Aziz

An exclusive interview with WSOF matchmaker and decision maker, Ali Abdel-Aziz, who discusses matchmaking, goals, keys to a successful future, and dealing with the 'UFC Reject' stigma.

When a brand new promotion is coming out of the gate, it is never 100% error free. There will be a few wrinkles that need to be ironed out. World Series of Fighting, the Las Vegas based promotion that had such a successful freshman effort that they managed to land a TV deal, is aiming to fine tune their promotion into a well oiled machine by the time their third event comes to pass.

The young promotion has landed some top notch names, the likes of which any promotion would scramble to obtain. With a slew of talented former UFC stars, as well as some kickboxing stars and new names we're just getting to know, the future can be a bright one when they get all their ducks properly in a row.

Heading up the promotion are two key figures, Ray Sefo and Ali Abdel-Aziz. Most fight fans know who Sefo is, from his well known battles in the K-1 kickboxing promotion. Abdel-Aziz is the man behind the scenes, match making and signing the talent. Some may know him from his management company, Dominance MMA Management, known for handling the careers of several members of the Gracie family and UFC featherweight star, Frank Edgar.

Ali has stepped away from the management aspect of his own career, so that he may focus his undivided attention on making WSOF a major player in the sport. He cites ethical concerns as well, conflict of interest being the foremost reason, for having his partners in Dominance MMA Management handle the company's fighter interests.

I recently sat down with Ali, so that our readers could get to know him a little better, and to discuss some of the goals and plans for the future of WSOF. Here's what he had to say:

Putting Dominance MMA Management in Capable Hands

Now that I'm working for World Series of Fighting, I can't do both. I'll always be in the guys' lives and will be able to watch their careers unfold from a close perspective. They're my friends, so I have that advantage, but that's about it. I can't actively manage them any more.

My business partners in Dominance will handle fighter management now. They've been working with me a long time, and now they oversee the company and represent it well.

World Series of Fighting Origins

NBC Sports has been around for a while now, and they were looking for good content. It's a great opportunity and a good fit. I had a friend in New York, so we got the meeting with them arranged. The chemistry was great. Our first show was a time buy, but NBC was so blown away, that we very quickly signed a long term deal with them.

Title Fights

Me and Ray (Sefo) are always communicating about when we're going to start having our title fights. Our titles will have to mean something. If we just start giving people belts right now, they won't mean very much to the athletes. A lot of people said, 'Let Josh Burkman and Jon Fitch fight for the title', but I don't think Fitch should walk right into a title shot. I think he should earn it. I think everybody should earn their shot. Maybe by the end of the year or sometime early next year, we'll put on a title fight, but not now. It's too soon.

Teamwork

I think we have the best team in the world. We have a seven time world champion in Ray Sefo. He's such a beloved guy, and so easy to work with. Even myself; I'm an Olympian, I fought in MMA, I trained with Greg Jackson for four years ... I understand, and live and breathe this sport every, single day. We did something that had never been done before. We signed a significant TV deal after only airing one event.

Me and Keith Evans and Ray Sefo are doing a pretty good job, I think. We run this like a family business. We're still very professional, but we're very close, and there's no big egos in it. We're not settling for anything. We want to go all the way to the top. We're just moving forward. I believe we're Number 2 right now.

A rerun of our second show got over 3.5 million viewers. We have found a great partner in NBC Sports. Those guys are so awesome. The presidents come to our events, and have such a great time. They've helped us so much. They want us to succeed. I love working with NBC Sports.

Getting Past the UFC 'Reject' Stigma

To get people to tune in to us, we have to bring in the names that people recognize. Andrei Arlovsi, Anthony Johnson, JZ Cavalcante are names the fans recognize and they're great fighters. At the same time, we have guys like Marlon Moraes and a lot of other guys that aren't too recognizable from other promotions that we're bringing along ourselves.

Somebody from Bellator, I believe, was saying that we use UFC rejects, but Karo Parisyan and Babalu just fought for them. These guys are way past their time, and some of the media was noting that, as well. You just can't compare guys like Jon Fitch with Karo or Babalu. I get a little emotional sometimes, over things like this, but it's my baby, you know?

You have a guy like Josh Burkman who fought for the UFC six years ago. He was fresh off The Ultimate Fighter, he was partying, he wasn't married and he didn't have a family. Now, he has a wife and child, and he's matured, so he's more focused, and you can see what he's doing to the guys that he fights.

Just because a guy has a bad run in the UFC, it doesn't mean that their career is over. They can go off, regroup, bounce back and become a world champion. It's all in how they handle themselves.

Possibility for Cross Promotion

If it were a well established organization, a big organization, and we had a champion fight a champion, I have no problem with that. I think it just makes the sport bigger and better. I doubt anybody else is actually willing to do it, but me and my team, we're definitely willing to do it. Why not?

Goals

To be honest, we don't get all caught up in the rankings and tournament champions or anything like that. Our number one goal is to put on great fights that the fans will enjoy. We definitely want to develop world champions, but that comes with time. Think of PRIDE. Everyone remembers those great fights, but the most amazing battles weren't always championship fights.

Matchmaking

I have fought before and I do actively train, and that makes me a better matchmaker. A lot of people don't know this, but Joe Silva trains, too. You can't just come off the street and think you're going to be a matchmaker. That does not work. Maybe you get lucky here and there, but you're going to run into problems.

I don't think guys that haven't trained are qualified to be matchmakers. Sometimes I speak my mind too much, and that gets me in trouble, but that's how I feel on the subject. Listen, I'm not talking bad about Bellator, but does their guy qualify to be a matchmaker? Probably not. Maybe he trains, but I've never heard of it. If he does, that's great. Do Sean Shelby and Joe Silva qualify? Absolutely, because they train all the time. That's how it should be.

Key to Success

We have a great platform that we can do nothing but grow from. We have a great team. We have great investors. Finally, we have great talent. We have all the tools for success. I don't think anybody can do what we did, as quickly as we were able to do it. I'm not saying we haven't struggled. Of course we have. It's not easy to put on fight cards and make everything seamless. It's a hard thing to do, but we have a great team, and a great partner in NBC Sports, and I believe we'll be around for the long haul.

You can follow Ali via his Twitter account, @aliwsof

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